Agenda 4: Follow-up on the Thematic Segment from the 38th PCB
By Ferenc Bagyinszky
Thank you, Chair. Just half a year ago we all had the privilege to listen to excellent examples of communities, and, in a broader sense civil society, initiating and making a change, delivering services and filling in gaps with their activities and presence in the AIDS response at the local, national and international level. We were celebrating and acknowledging the importance of the role of communities.
However, increasing difficulties were also voiced, not just from the speakers but also from our constituencies and colleagues from the field and from NGO observers who follow the PCB debates. They reaffirmed what we have also stated in our NGO report on “Financing for communities”. Communities and civil society are facing repressive legal and political environments and further structural barriers to accessing necessary funds for community-led work. One particularly harmful practice is criminalization. The criminalization and incarceration of gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers and people living with HIV It is sad, often frightening, but these are the problems that our communities, our organizations and networks are facing every day, without seeing enough efforts in place to change it. Let´s face it: had criminalization been an HIV-programme, it would have been shut down long time ago. In HIV language, it is bad practice and not cost-effective.
Since June the situation has seriously deteriorated. In the Philippines you have a 3-fold chance to be murdered for suspected drug use than to be diagnosed with HIV. Countries that criminalize same-sex relationships suspend their HIV outreach programmes including ARV delivery programmes, limiting or barring access to these life-saving medication. Worldwide human-rights defenders have been murdered for defending our rights and these examples are part of a global phenomenon; as the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights worded this June in his intervention on shrinking space for civil society: “Hate is being mainstreamed.”
Communities are facing difficult times. We are all facing difficult times. With more conservative governments in many regions and the financial crises justifying the violations of our rights. But if we don’t remove social, political and legal barriers now, you will fail to meet your own commitment of ending AIDS by 2030. We need less words and more concrete actions now. As my colleague from the NGO Delegation called on this Board in June, I am calling on you now: Stop criminalizing and incarcerating our communities. Or stop saying you want to end AIDS by 2030.